Garifunas Celebrate Heritage Month
The Board of Directors of the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition, U.S.A., Inc. says the group will be celebrating Garifuna-American Heritage Month next month in observance of the 215th anniversary of the exile of the Garifuna people from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and their settlement in Central America.
“During Garifuna-American Heritage Month, we will celebrate the great contributions of Garifuna-Americans to the fabric of the New York State and New York City, and we will pay tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garifuna countries of origin,” said the group in a statement.
It said the Garifuna American legacy and history are “inextricably linked to the United States and marked by the strength, determination and vision of such notable individuals as William Henry Brown, playwright of The Drama of King Shotaway, a play which is recognized as the first black drama of the American Theatre.”
The play has as its subject the 1795 Black Caribs (Garifunas) Insurrection in St. Vincent and the Grenadines led by the Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer.
On May 18, 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed the Garifuna language, dance and music as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangibles Heritage of Humanity.”
The Garifuna Coalition said the special observance of the 217th anniversary of the death of Chatoyer on March 14, 1795, the 215th anniversary of the exile of the Garifuna people on March 11, 1797, and their arrival in Central America on April 12th, 1797, “serve to commemorate the survival of the Garifuna-American Heritage and Culture.”
To kick off Garifuna Heritage Month, the Garifuna Coalition U.S.A., Inc., in cooperation with other community and civic organizations, has planned a number of activities, among them: Mar. 11 – 215th Anniversary Celebration of the Exile of the Garifunas; Mar. 13 – New York Senate Resolution proclaiming Garifuna-American Heritage Month by Senator Rev. Rubén Díaz; Mar. 14 – 217th Anniversary Celebration of Chatoyer’s death; Mar. 15 – the second “Abrazo Garifuna in New York” honoring the contributions of the Garifuna-Americans to the fabric of New York City.
The coalition said New York is home to the largest Garifuna community outside of Central America, with over 200,000 living in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
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by Nelson A. King